Journalist and founder of Data-N Kuek Ser Kuang Keng: “Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be about where you’re from, it should be about what you’re really good at.

Kuek Ser Kuang Keng worked as a journalist on both sides of the world. Born and raised in Malaysia he contributed to the country’s most visited news website Malaysiakini for eight years before he moved to continue his career in the United States. Back in his home country since 2015, the award-winning data journalist founded training program Data-N that helps journalists to integrate data into their daily reporting. He is also a fellow of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and a Google Journalism Fellow.

I talked to Keng about mental wellbeing and media diversity on a zoom call in the summer of 2020, in the middle of the global pandemic. The first question to all my interviewees at that moment was ‘how are you doing?’ because the sudden requirement for everyone to work from home had quite an impact on journalists. Not so much for Keng and his family though because he’s been working from home for the past five years already.

Happy journalists are more creative and collaborative

“They have ten years of experience. A lot of talent gets lost this way. Whereas a healthier work-life balance in the newsroom will also create more happy and more creative people and when you’re happy you’re also better in collaborating with others.”

We don’t have strong discussions or reflections on work culture. That’s something we might want to learn from the US.

Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be about where you’re from

In my country, it’s hard to imagine that. People know racism exists but we tend to not face it directly. It’s a different context. If you ask what is better or worse, I don’t have a good answer.

Data to fight racism

We’re not only reporting on the state and the people. We now also report on the tech companies who have gotten more power over our lives. If we don’t know how data works or technology works, how are we going to report on these issues?”.

The technical skills, the current problems we are facing, those discussions we have already a lot. But people don’t talk so much about the history, the background, the ethics of our jobs.”

Where does activism stop and journalism start?

When there is a rally to fight for more freedom of expression, you have to be there because that’s how you protect your profession and your work ethics.

Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE to the Inclusive Journalism newsletter and receive the (free) guide on ‘journalistic storytelling’ for Instagram.

Exploring the solutions to the lack of inclusion in journalism, focusing on decolonising journalism and discussing whiteness, Eurocentrism and objectivity.